Michigan Forest Products Institute will be located south of Grayling
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Two years after opening a health sciences center, Kirtland Community College officials are forging ahead on another $10 million project on the campus located south of Grayling.
The Kirtland Community College Board of Trustees, administrators, faculty and community members attended a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday, May 1, for the Michigan Forest Products Institute.
The building will house programs and training for the growing number of wood products production jobs coming to Michigan, specifically in the Grayling area. Arauco, a global producer of wood products, will complete construction on a $400 million plant located off of Four Mile Road in Grayling Township in early fall. Once it is up and running, the plant will have a workforce of about 200 employees.
Jack Kramer, the vice president of the Kirtland Community College Board of Trustees, said college officials pitched the idea to state leaders to house the forest products institute in Grayling.
“As long as we keep doing what you – the members of our community – ask us to do, we’re going to keep growing and I think that’s a tribute to each and everyone of you here today,” Kramer said.
Mary Ann Ferrigan, the president of Kirtland Community College Board of Trustees, said the institute will house a learning commons, a tutoring space, a private study space, a workforce development and training lab, an automation and process control training lab, a welding lab, and a high school dual enrollment lab. A state-of the art cosmetology training lab and space for new programming development as it is identified will also be located in the building.
“It will assist and create well-paying jobs for our children and grandchildren,” Ferrigan said.
Although some may be reluctant to accept the changes regarding the community college, Kirtland Community Collage President Dr. Tom Quinn said the addition would support a growing area economy.
“Change and growth are difficult, but are fundamental to Kirtland’s success,” Quinn said. “Please let me remind everyone that our graduates are engines of a better community, and it is through them we can make a better economy and a better place to live.”
Former State Rep. Bruce Rendon attended the groundbreaking on behalf of his wife, Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City.
Bruce, who is also a consultant for the Michigan Association of Timberman, commended Kirtland Community College officials for their foresight.
“We need to start fitting our jobs to our young people that we have out there,” he said.
Rendon said community leaders can relate more to what community colleges have to offer to provide a better future in the region. He added that there is a need for 2,900 additional housing units within a 50-mile radius of Grayling due to the number of jobs being created.
“I want to see our young people thrive,” Bruce said. “The fact that we are starting a forest products institute and are recognizing what we have to offer will keep our children here.”
Graduation was held for the Kirtland Community College on Friday, May 4. Some of the students among the graduates were the second year of students who have attended the health sciences center since it opened in 2016.
Dr. Julie Lavender, vice resident of instruction for Kirtland Community College, said 60 percent of the college’s nursing graduates have landed jobs at area hospitals and medical clinics.
She added that business students are completing internships nearby.
“Our students are out in the community as well,” Lavender said. “We thank you for supporting our students as they finish their education that they start in this building and then as they are moving on.”
College officials anticipate that the new college building, which will open for classes in 2019, will fill up just as quickly as new courses and programs are offered.
“Hopefully, we will have some time to settle in before we look at any more changes,” Lavender said. “But for now, let’s celebrate this expansion of Kirtland Grayling and what we have to offer here.”
Jason Broge, the vice president of business services for Kirtland Community College, said the building will cost $10 million. He said the State of Michigan appropriated $3 million with a local match coming from the college. The rest of the money will come from bonds, which were approved by voters in the college’s operating district.
Broge said college officials would not be going to the taxpayers for extra funding to maintain and operate the new building. Some programs will be moved from the college’s main campus in Roscommon County, replacing antiquated buildings which were built in the 1970s.
“The operating cost for this building is going to be relatively lean compared to our old space,” Broge said. “That’s what has happened as we closed those other old spaces before, as far and energy and efficiency costs, we have come out ahead actually in using new spaces like this versus using older spaces.”
Broge added that operating cost to heat the building will be a fraction of the cost of what is needed for older buildings.
“We’re not asking the community to do anything more. We ended doing this structurally within our own budget and with the state helping out us as well,” he said. “We didn’t increase tuition for this either. This was all done by tightening our belt, looking at our budget and getting support from the state. There will also be new revenue streams and will bring in new revenue as well.”
Mike Bean, an asset manager from the Grayling Generating Station, attended the ceremony. The Grayling Generating Station, located near the college, uses waste wood to produce power for the consumer energy grid.
Bean said the wood products institute, controls and automation programs and welding courses would be an asset to all manufacturers in the industry.
“That’s what makes things tick,” Bean said. “Having this institute here will support what we all do.”